COLENDI Analysis In Turkey From The Recent Istanbul Fintech Week 2020 by Richie Santosdiaz for The Fintech Times
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Analysis In Turkey From The Recent Istanbul Fintech Week 2020

Istanbul is major hub of financial services. Its geographical position makes the country a three-way bridge between Europe, the Middle East and Asia coupled with its large population.

It has a growing fintech scene and was host of the recent Istanbul Fintech Week (IFW). The following highlights key aspects of the event that went virtual due to the current pandemic.

Adapting to changes is a must to carry the fintech industry way forward

The important topics for the fintech ecosystem were discussed at Istanbul Fintech Week held on the 9-13 November 2020. 125 speakers from 30 different countries and 2500 attendees participated in the event. The development of fintech from past to today, changes in the ecosystem, expectations for digitalisation, cryptocurrencies, insurtech structuring, and AI in finance were among the topics covered in the event. In addition, more than 300 attendees joined the B2B meetings at the networking platform. A special day was organised for startups at the event, on which 26 entrepreneurs from 5 countries made their pitches.

Today, being aware of consumer needs, retaining them, and ensuring their satisfaction are very important. Digitalisation, which has become a must for all industries, especially after the pandemic, was the most important topic at the sessions that were the heartland of the fintech ecosystem. The importance of understanding the customer needs who demand digital services and integrating products and services to those needs was emphasised by the experts in most of the sessions. Moreover, the impact of the Y and Z generations was addressed by many.

There will be significant changes in the financial system with the Istanbul Finance Center project

One of the most important speakers of Istanbul Fintech Week was Murat Ali Cengelci, Vice President of the Finance Office of Presidency of the Republic of Turkey (CBFO), who participated in the Regulatory Buzz session alongside other panelists Sopnendu Mohanty, Chief Fintech Officer at the Monetary Authority of Singapore and Per Nordkvist from Finansinspektionen. During the session, which was moderated by The FinTech Time‘s Richie Santosdiaz, Cengelci pointed out that although CBFO is not a regulatory institution, it accelerates the access of the finance industry to the regulatory institutions. Cengelci mentioned that they bring the industry players together, and there will be significant changes in the financial system with the Istanbul Finance Center project. Drawing attention to the fact that the whole financial system can be deregulated with the regulations on financial technologies, Cengelci emphasised that this situation will drive a far-reaching transformation within the system.

The new generation financial tools find a mutual ground between the families’ sense of control and the children’s search for freedom

Gülben Yagci, CMO at ininal, stated that with the pandemic’s impact, their transaction volumes increased by 60 percent, and monthly user acquisitions increased by 30 percent, at the session “Understanding Digital Customers”. Yagci mentioned that 82 percent of the users have built connections with the brands that offered them the best experience during this period. She also emphasised that 70 percent of ininal users are members of Generation Z and they want to manage their spending without having to ask for their families’ credit cards. According to Yagci, ininal and similar new generation financial tools find a mutual ground between families’ sense of control and children’s search for freedom.

The financial services industry is being reshaped with the expectations of different segments and technological developments

At the same session, Basak Kural, General Manager of eLogo, shared that digitalisation is materialising at very high levels, especially in the banking and finance industries. Kural also drew attention to the fact that it has become very important to understand customer needs correctly in all these digitalisation processes and to create the best experience based on that. Whereas the needs, wants, and goals of the individual targets are much more subjective and emotional, the corporate targets are focused on creating value for their customers, generating profit, and the future. She added that all parties in the finance ecosystem, including banks and fintechs, must act in co-opetition to create a perfect end-to-end experience in the digitalisation process. Kural also underlined that the financial services industry is undergoing a rapid change with the expectations of different segments and technological developments.

The rapid and necessary changes in the payment methods are the building blocks of the fintech ecosystem

Bora Uluduz, Director of Digital Banking at Garanti BBVA, addressed the increasing digital content consumption habits and talked about the “Stories” feature of their app that was brought to life by taking this video content consumption trend into consideration. He mentioned that they include funny and attention-grabbing videos in Stories, and by this means, they can easily interact with the users even on topics like security warnings. Uluduz stated that creating a good digital experience in banking is very important but challenging as well. He emphasised the importance of analysing the data in detail and supporting it with research on usability to provide a simple and convenient experience.

Director of Digital Banking at Yapi Kredi, Evren Sahin who moderated the panel, “Banking Innovation: Yesterday and Tomorrow”, stated that developing technologies, changing regulations, customer behaviors, and the pandemic are bringing forth new realisations, which carry banking innovation into a different dimension. He underlined that the developments in Open Banking and Digital Customer Acquisition will accelerate this innovation in the upcoming period, and financial services will become easier, more integrated, and more accessible for users. Moreover, Sahin mentioned that they are anticipating an increase in the financial involvement of customers with end-to-end digital services.

Group Director of Digital Banking at Kuveyt Turk, Dr. Okan Acar who moderated the session “The right digital model for banks”,  underlined that banks should follow the trends closely to find the right digital model within the transforming financial ecosystem. He emphasised the importance of the new generation branchless banking experience along with the changing customer expectations and digital developments. Acar also evaluated how the fintech solutions using APIs within the scope of open banking, bring together the services offered by different banks in a single place and how they will influence the finance industry. Lastly, how the superapps spreading from Asia to the whole world and helping users meet all their daily needs on a single platform would affect the banking and finance industries was discussed.

Payment systems must be ready for the IoT revolution

Serkan Celik, CEO of Paynet, talked about the financial tool preferences of B2B companies and mentioned that the traditional payment methods are still widely used, but due to the pandemic, it is not possible to stay away from digitalisation. Emphasising the importance of employees to acquire digital skills, Celik stated that creating different solutions for customers with a wide range of different needs will be achieved through the digitalisation of all stakeholders. He also mentioned that they are expecting an IoT revolution with 5G, and added that payment systems will also be integrated into IoT devices.

90% of banks see open banking as an opportunity

Stating that fintech structures offer great opportunities to build partnerships with banks, Benoit Grange, CTO of OneSpan, pointed out that such partnerships can offer customers different and better experiences. Grange also highlighted that 90 percent of banks see open banking as an opportunity to grow, and added that the banks that are aware of the consumer needs, want to retain and satisfy them, can successfully use the open banking opportunities.

The depth of insurtechs should increase

Digitalisation of the insurance industry was also among the main topics discussed by the industry experts at Istanbul Fintech Week. Yesim Taslioglu, Vice President of Marketing and Transformation at AvivaSA, stated that Turkey has great potential in the field of insurance. Taslioglu mentioned that they are working on saving and investment projects, and bringing together the traditional structures and insurtechs that provide new and different perspectives with the Digital Garage project. Moreover, she emphasised that the insurtech ecosystem has developed in recent years, and added that they think the depth of startups should increase.

Closing remarks from Demet Zubeyiroglu from FINTR

The closing remarks of IFW 2020 Online were made by Demet Zubeyiroglu, Chairperson of FINTR, the main partner of the event. Zuberiyoglu said, “While fintech drives the change in the finance industry, it also requires the ability to adapt to the changes in itself. To change and take the industry one step forward is only possible by being integrated with new needs and taking the next step into consideration in all circumstances. As FINTR, we are pleased to have brought the ecosystem together with participants from all over the world, and helped them exchange ideas and collaborate through such an important event. We will announce some statistical data regarding the event with a comprehensive report this week.”


  • Executive Economic Development Advisor (Emerging Markets) | Contributor

  • Editorial Director of the The Fintech Times

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